Monday, July 30, 2012

Darwin and Why I Let my Subscription to “Christianity Today” (CT) Lapse

Darwin is just one example of CT’s overly stretched tent and mushy message. In the cover story of its latest issue – “A Tale of Two Scientists” – CT introduces us to two scientists. One (Darrell Falk) is a Christian evolutionist (CE); the other (Todd Wood) is a young-earth creationist (YEC). CT is careful to inform us that both of these sincere Christians came from Christian homes and are both seekers of truth. In other words, they both represent reasonable Christian points of view. The choice is yours!

CT makes no attempt to evaluate their respective positions or even to ask if either is antagonistic to the Christian faith. I guess since they’re both broadly held beliefs, well, they must be equally acceptable. Instead, CT places the emphasis upon civility and not truth:

  • Falk has held to his plea for Christians to love and respect each other while advocating different points of view. (July/August 2012, 28)
Of course, the need to treat others with Christian love and patience goes without saying. However, such admonitions shouldn’t be used to obscure the fact that certain ideas/teachings are highly destructive of the Christian faith. Paul informed the Galatians that believing a certain false but popular gospel endangered their faith and standing with God (Gal. 5:2-4). Beliefs matter profoundly!

Nevertheless, CT’s emphasis is on peace and acceptance without a concern about truth as it’s quotations reflect. Falk is quoted to have stated:

  • My prayer is that each person who reads it will respect that one should be able to be accepted as an equal partner in Christ’s body even if he or she believes that God created gradually. (28)
This is oxymoronic. Even God can’t “create gradually” through NATURAL selection and RANDOM mutation. Why then does Falk even call himself an “evolutionist?”

More importantly, his prayer obscures the real issue. This issue is not about being “accepted as an equal partner in Christ’s body.” It is about whether or not Falk’s faith is destructive of Christian faith. And Falk knows that this is a weighty concern! His former partner at the Biologos Foundation, Karl Giberson, had written:

  • Acid is an appropriate metaphor for the erosion of my fundamentalism, as I slowly lost confidence in the Genesis story of creation and the scientific creationism that placed this ancient story within the framework of modern science. Dennett’s [Darwin’s] universal acid dissolved Adam and Eve; it ate through the Garden of Eden; it destroyed the historicity of the events of creation week. It etched holes in those parts of Christianity connected to the stories—the fall, “Christ as the second Adam,” the origins of sin, and nearly everything else that I counted sacred.” (Karl Giberson, Saving Darwin, 9-10)
How can Falk expect us to approach this discussion with nothing more than mutual acceptance, when it’s patently obvious to all who are aware of the issues that serious costs are involved? Loosing “confidence in the Genesis story of creation” is no small matter. It serves as the foundation for everything else.

There is the problem of the proverbial “slippery-slope.” If we reduce the first several chapters on Genesis to mere metaphor or parable – consequently there is no longer an historic Adam, Eve, Garden or even a Fall – what is to prevent the rest of the Bible to also be reduced to metaphor? And what is to prevent all of the NT quotations of Genesis to likewise become metaphorical and unhistorical as they now must be rendered?

If Adam and the Fall are metaphors, then what reason do we have to regard the “second Adam,” Jesus, as anything more than a metaphor?

Metaphor fails to provide an adequate basis for theological truth and teaching. However, God’s historical work is another matter. Consequently, when Jesus was probed about the question of divorce, He harkened back to the way God historically made Adam and Eve and then joined them together as one (Gen. 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6), concluding that what God had historically made one, man had no right to dissolve.

Peter argued from the historicity of the worldwide flood and Sodom that God because God had historically judged, we should expect that He will also judge in the future (2 Peter 2:5-9; 3:3-8). If these events were no more than metaphor, we are left to wonder whether the promised future judgment is also no more than metaphor.

Clearly, Giberson was not immune to the “slippery slope.” On the Biologos blog, he later expressed approval of Richard Dawkins’ tirade against the God of the OT as a:

  • “tyrannical anthropomorphic deity,” “commanded the Jews to go on genocidal rampages”…but who believes in this [OT] deity any more, besides those same fundamentalists who think the earth is 10,000 years old? Modern theology has moved past this view of God.” 
Perhaps modern theology has moved past the God of the OT, but I think that CT bears some responsibility to be transparent about such theological costs. Instead, CT again approvingly quotes Falk:

  • “We must be patient with each other to follow truth as we see it in Scripture. We must recognize that we will never reach the point where we all see Scripture the same way. When there is division in the church, it will be difficult for the thirsty to find their way to Jesus.” (28-29)
Which Jesus? The Jesus of Karl Giberson who has distanced Himself from the God of the OT? I don’t want to demonize Falk or CT, but there are important issues that need to be addressed, while they seem to want to hide the real issues behind a façade of civility. Civility – Yes, but also speaking truth in love!

Perhaps even more egregiously, CT has chosen the YEC Wood to carry the banner for the opposition. In conclusion, CT cites a Wood who sounds much like Falk:

  • “I’m beginning to think the [creationist vs. evolution] war is detrimental to the church. We all have enormous unanswered questions, whether scientific or biblical. We all see through a glass darkly.” (290
Indeed, we see imperfectly and continue to struggle for more understanding. However, Scripture also assumes that there are some truths that are so important and so well-know, that we are directed to “contend for the faith” (Jude 1:3) and to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).

This implies that we possess a truth worthy of defense and a mandate to defend it. Truth is so foundational to the entire Christian life that it had to be defended. Consequently, Paul insisted that the elders,

  • Must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach. (Titus 1:9-11)
According to Paul, certain teachings must be confronted and silenced. The welfare of the church depended on this. However, in its attempt to pitch a wide tent, CT often shows little appreciation of this danger. Following this feature article, “The Editors” diminish the significance of this debate by claiming that it is relatively recent, and that some of the pillars of the faith dismissed its importance:

  • But as the views of Warfield and Machen suggest, many conservative Christians had no problem with the theory of evolution if God’s providential had was involved. (28)
In other words, those of us who are concerned about the corrosiveness of Darwin’s theory are near-sighted and perhaps even narrow-minded. The CT “Editors” conclude in this manner:

  • Today, the devout of various persuasions continue to argue their views, each believing that the future of the faith hinges on the outcome of this battle…The debate may be with us always. (29)
I guess CT’s message is that we just need to accept this fact, go home and attend to some weightier matters. However, I can’t remember any of Israel’s Prophets resigning themselves to the fact that “The debate may be with us always,” so let’s just get used to it. Instead, the Prophets were called to be watchmen, warning the Israelites against dangerous thinking – for as we think, so are we.

It is not simply that CT is failing in this role. CT is also saying, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.”

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